Fitbit vs. Apple Watch3

fitbit-and-apple-watchFitbit vs. Apple Watch3: a reader asks…

I’m looking at getting a fitness tracker, and am considering either a Fitbit Charge or an Apple Watch. What are your thoughts?

As a matter of fact, for the last few weeks I’ve been wearing both, and noting the differences, so let me spill the beans for you. First things first, the Fitbit Charge 2 is available now, and costs about $130. The Charge 3 is coming out in October, you can pre-order for $150 (lots of improvements and it’s waterproof!). Compare that to an Apple Watch, with pricing running from $250 for the Series 1 or $400 for the Series 3 (waterproof!), plus any custom band(s) you want which can drive the cost up. Also you can get the Series 3 with cellular service so it can stand alone without an iPhone. In a few weeks, I expect Apple to announce/release the Apple Watch Series 4 – it’ll probably cost about the same as the Series 3 and offer better/more (and the Series 3 prices will go down).

So waiting a bit before buying might save you some money with an older version of either, or get you the latest and greatest version. But regardless, the Fitbit is going to be cheaper, possibly quite a bit cheaper. That said, the Fitbit is primarily a fitness tracker that also has some smartwatch capabilities, while the Apple Watch is primarily a smartwatch that has fitness tracker capabilities. Here’s a hit-list of big differences I’ve seen while wearing both. I should note that I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch for years and just started wearing the Fitbit a few weeks ago, so some differences may be at least partly a calibration issue.

  1. The Fitbit seems to count steps more accurately. Usually when the Fitbit shows 10k steps, the Apple Watch shows about 400-500 steps behind. Walking on treadmills that measure distance, the Apple Watch consistently under-counts distance by about 5-10% per mile.
  2. The Fitbit will automatically start crediting you for exercise anytime you appear to be working out or doing exercise. For the Apple Watch, you have to start an exercise on the Watch before it starts crediting. I think this may be changing in the next WatchOS update (coming out in the next few weeks or so).
  3. The Fitbit and the Apple Watch are both spotty on heart rate measurements, sometimes in sync, sometimes wildly off (both from each other and from what I know my heart rate should be). But the Fitbit’s heart rate monitor is working all the time it’s on your wrist, while the Apple Watch monitor only works full-time during a set workout. The rest of the time it measures your heart rate once every few minutes.
  4. fitbit-sleep-graphWhen sleeping with the Fitbit, it does an excellent job of tracking your sleep patterns, showing you a great graph of deep, light and REM sleep along with wakefulness. The Apple Watch only measures sleep and awake times.
  5. Both watches can track a variety of exercises. Because the Apple Watch is waterproof, you can track swimming with it. You’d need the forthcoming Fitbit Charge 3 to track swimming.
  6. Both have companion apps for your smartphone that can provide a lot of detail and can take info (like nutrition) from other sources (like the excellent My Fitness Pal). The Fitbit data can also be accessed on the web at
  7. The Fitbit has great community and friend features to help you challenge each other. Apple has simple fitness data sharing (with other Apple Watch users), but you’d need a 3rd party app for more.
  8. The Fitbit can show text, calendar and other notifications from your smartphone. So can the Apple Watch, but you can also interact on those notifications on the Watch without having to pull out your iPhone. You can reply to text messages, dictate answers to emails, even take phone calls on the Apple Watch. Plus it has full Siri integration so for example, you can tell your watch to set an appointment for such and such time on such and such subject, or nearly anything you can do with Siri on the iPhone.
  9. The Fitbit’s screen is smaller and without color, the Apple Watch has a full OLED display with lots of rich colors and tons more information. Also, I think the Fitbit’s screen scratches more easily than the Apple Watch.
  10. Both watches can show you the time when you raise your wrist. The Fitbit’s main screen can show up to 3 items (like time/date, heart rate and step count), while the Apple Watch can show a whole lot more.

If you use an Android smartphone, then an Apple Watch probably isn’t for you. If you use an iPhone, then you can consider either the Fitbit or the Apple Watch. Lots of folks buy the older Series 1 Apple Watch because it’s a lot cheaper and they don’t need the waterproof capability nor the ability to operate on its own without the iPhone nearby.

wearing-fitbit-and-apple-watchI use an iPhone and am very comfortable with the Apple Watch, despite its shortcomings in the above fitness tracking areas. However, the Fitbit’s sleep tracking is very powerful and (for me) very valuable. Since I got the Fitbit as a gift (thanks Pam & Mike!), I originally planned on wearing the Fitbit at night just to track sleep, while wearing the Apple Watch during the day. but I’m finding the Fitbit community and friend features challenging a lot of fun, so I’m currently quite geeky wearing both. I have a current challenge on Fitbit going with a friend to the end of the year, so I’m gonna be rock’in geeky for several months!

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